By Michelle Graff

It's that time of year again. Holiday sales are in full swing, and so are the ubiquitous parties. I am booked with jewelry lunches, dinners and parties every night this week, with double commitments on quite a few nights.

In-store parties work wonders in getting consumers through the door and alo associate retailers with the all-important shopping experience.

Having just attended two well-done parties in the past two nights (one at De Beers, and one co-sponsored by Gourmet magazine and Daniel K), and far too many poorly executed events (no names necessary), here are a few tips for throwing a stellar soiree:

1. Think about the weather: This is December, people! If it's cold, raining or snowing outside, make sure you provide an adequate coat check. Nothing makes it harder to mingle than lugging a heavy coat or dripping umbrella around all night.

2. Keep the alcohol flowing: Downing a glass or two of bubbly helps guests relax and get into the holiday spirit, which means socializing and spending.

3. Put as many employees on the floor as possible: You're going to have many more customers in your store than usual this time of year, but your service should remain at its standard level. Tell your staff to let people try on anything they want and to be ready to answer any questions.

4. Change up the music: Seasonal music does get people in the holiday spirit, but serious shoppers may have overdosed on the carols by the time they get to your event. Mix in a few crowd favorites to keep them awake.

5. Serve bite-size food: Struggling to balance a cocktail, plate and fork can make people self-conscious about indulging in a few treats.

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